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STOP Foodborne Illness Can Help You with Food Truck & Food Cart Safety
By: STOP Foodborne Illness
It's important to know that licensed vendors meet basic requirements in food safety training as dictated by local authorities. Their facilities and vehicles are subject to regular inspection. Any unlicensed vendors operate illegally and aren't subject to food safety laws which means they may be preparing and storing food at home where health inspectors can't go.
Characteristics of unsafe food trucks or food carts:
On a sunny day it can be hard to detect when things seem a little shady. It's imperative to be able to detect when a food truck/cart is unsafe. One sign is that the person serving food is not wearing gloves or is wearing them and touching other things too. Also, pay attention to any lack of hand hygiene. Dirt under fingernails can transport and transmit harmful pathogens. Hair should always be tied back or covered by a hair net. Employees who touch their hair could also be transferring bacteria onto food. Lukewarm food is questionable. Cold food should be cold, hot food should be hot. Salads and sandwiches should feel like they're straight out of the fridge, while soups and burgers should be piping hot. Finally, a lack of permit or low inspection grade can prove the truck or cart to be an unsafe food environment.
Laws regarding food trucks and carts:
When you're running over to a truck for a quick meal, you're not expected to know the rules and regulations of mobile cuisine. But here are some things to keep in mind. First, according to the FDA, over 2,000 different state and local agencies in the US are responsible for inspecting food trucks. And safety standards can vary widely from state to state, and even within a state. Second, food safety advocates would like to see national standards for how food is handled and stored on trucks. They also strongly suggests at least one worker on every truck who has passed a food safety training program. Many states' public health websites have information on state-specific regulations and practices concerning food trucks. See: www.stopfoodborneillness.org/
Before you head over to your local food truck scene, here are just a few more odds and ends to keep you in the know. A dirty truck is never good, but a clean truck does not necessarily mean the food is safe. Safe food is the result of good habits and consistent behavior. Be aware that the way a truck is built can lend itself to being hot inside because of constant heat from the sun or an oven. This could compromise foods and ingredients that need to be kept cold. Also, limited preparation space for meat, poultry, and produce could potentially lead to cross-contamination. So, if you have questions about the food, don't be afraid to ask the vendor. You want to ensure that you're getting a safe, quality meal.
To learn more about foodborne illness, visit http://www.stopfoodborneillness.org
About STOP Foodborne Illness
STOP Foodborne Illness (STOP) is a national, nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. STOP achieves its mission by advocating for sound public policies, building public awareness and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. www.stopfoodborneillness.org.